Tales from the Free Table

A few years ago, a contributor wrote an article on the “Free Table” that is commonly found at places around the world where cruisers roam.  I’ve run into many “free tables” in all sorts of places. I bet man people, especially cruisers have a “free table” story. I remember a related experience I had several years back.

I once spent a week at a dive resort (called CoCo View) on Roatan Island, Honduras. This was a great resort—very casual and informal. Accommodations were excellent, and you could dive from the beach. It had an ol’ style feeling about it, but it was also very clean and modern with great dive boats and equipment. It also had a very unique dining and menu experience of real good, healthy food. I can’t say enough good about it.

It didn’t have a free table, but it did have a free paperback book exchange. One day, I was checking them out, and one of the books I picked up was hollow—just like you’d expect to find in an old prison movie where someone used it to smuggle in contraband. The edges were intact, and you couldn’t tell it was hollow till you opened it. I found several books like that and discovered that they were all books that most likely had been sitting there a while untouched. Eventually, termites found their way into them and ate out the insides. Termites avoid light and will always stay away from it. All they needed was one point where the wooden bookshelf was touching the wall and they could eat through it and reach a book, and—instead of reading it—they ate it. I learned that the termites were so bad on the island that just about everything had to be made out of pressure-treated wood—or they’ll eat it.

The owners of the resort were a couple of sailors who had come down to the island years before and found the resort partially completed and for sale, so they bought it. The husband was a builder from Florida and introduced pressure-treated wood to the island and used it extensively in building the resort. For example: The door frames, jambs and casings were all

pressure-treated—even the wood trim around the bathroom mirrors. I found this out because I used to sit at the small bar with the owner, and since I was a builder at the time, we talked about building.

Above the bar, there was an old ship lamp about the size of a football. It was held up by a hawser (a thick rope used on ships) that was about four inches thick. It was supported at both ends and held the lamp up—quite artistically—in the shape of a “U.” One evening I came into the bar area and the whole thing was gone. The bartender told me the hawser just gave way in the middle of the previous night, and the whole thing came tumbling down. Turns out the hawser was completely hollow. Termites had eaten the inside out over a period of time to the point where all that was left was just a thin shell of a rope, till it gave way.

And that’s my free table story.

If you have a free table story, please email it to editor@southindsmagazine.com.           

This article was originally printed as an editorial in February 2010 in SOUTHWINDS.